Reading Middle Grade is proud to reveal the gorgeous cover of Kristin O’Donnell Tubb’s forthcoming middle grade mystery, Fowl Play, coming in the fall of 2024. I enjoyed talking to Kristin about Fowl Play, her protagonist Chloe, her life-long love for mysteries, and why there are almost always animals in her stories.
Hi Kristin, welcome to Reading Middle Grade! We’re so happy to have you.
Thank you for hosting me, Afoma! I love your work and I’m delighted to be here!
Congratulations on Fowl Play. It’s not your first rodeo as a kid-lit author.
It’s not! Fowl Play is my eleventh novel for middle grade readers.
Could you tell us a bit about Fowl Play?
I’d love to! Thirteen-year-old Chloe Alvarez inherits her uncle Will’s prized possession – an African grey parrot named Charlie with a bad British accent. Charlie soon starts saying phrases like, “Call 911!” and “It was poison!” and Chloe suspects her new feathery friend might’ve been witness to some serious foul play. What really happened to her uncle Will? Chloe recruits her family to help her uncover the mystery.
Cozy mysteries have been so few and far between in the middle grade space, so I am thrilled to hear about Fowl Play. Have you always been a fan of mysteries?
Yes! When I was a young reader, I loved short mysteries like Encyclopedia Brown, and grew up reading Mary Higgins Clark and Agatha Christie (who was a favorite of my mom’s–she had bookcases full of Agatha Christie paperbacks!)
I believe this is your first mystery. How was it different from writing other genres? What did you love the most? What was hardest about it?
The Story Collector and The Story Seeker (Henry Holt, 2018 and 2020) are both mysteries, but those stories are wrapped in an amazing setting (the New York Public Library!) and are historical fiction as well – so sometimes the mysteries in those books fade into the background.
But yes, crafting mysteries is different from writing other genres in that the plot is very much a house of cards–one change and a lot can topple.
Truly, in Fowl Play, I love the family dynamic between these lovable characters. The scenes where they spy on suspects together were my very favorites to write. The hardest part was tying up all the loose ends you must lace in as part of a mystery – no one likes a red herring that is left just flopping about!
What should readers know about Chloe Alvarez?
Chloe loves her family deeply. She lost one of her best friends and allies when she lost her uncle, so her grief runs deep. Luckily she is smart and strong and funny, and she’s able to convince others to see things her way.
I can’t help but notice how often animals play a role in your stories. Is this a conscious inclusion?
This is a great question–and honestly, no! Animals play a large role in my life and the lives of my loved ones–we often joke that our “love language” is sending one another photos of our pets. I think because I love animals so much, they just naturally work their way into these stories. I’m glad they do–they are so much fun to write!
And now, the moment we’ve been waiting for: the reveal!
As you know, I am OBSESSED with this cover! So beautiful, so intriguing, and kids will love it. How did you feel when you first saw it?
Um…I cried. 🙂 Seriously – it’s perfect. The African grey parrot, the four family sleuths whose demeanors are all spot-on, the dark, mysterious setting (note the palm trees and the Spanish moss!)…I truly love it. The cover artist is Ben Mantle, and the jacket design is by Molly Fehr. They nailed the goofy-dark tone of this story, and I’m so grateful for artists like Ben and Molly who bring a story to life in this way.
I love the way the parrot is in the background, so striking! Can you tell us anything non-spoilery about the other characters on the cover?
Definitely! The parrot is Charlie, who has a vast vocabulary and often speaks in an adorably awful British accent. On the far left is Uncle Frank, and then Chloe is there in the green, with Charlie perched on her arm. To her right is Grammy, a Southern belle card shark. And finally, there’s Chloe’s brother Jacob, whose antics throughout kept me laughing!
Wow, I can’t wait to read Fowl Play, Kristin. Thank you so much for sharing this gorgeous cover with us!
Thank you, Afoma! I truly appreciate the work you do, celebrating middle grade books!
About Fowl Play
Chloe Alvarez has never been to the reading of a last will and testament, but she hopes it is just like the movies. Lies! Intrigue! The reading of her uncle Will’s will is standard until he announces his gift for Chloe: his African grey parrot, Charlie.
Uncle Will was Chloe’s best friend. Without him, she’s left with only her memories of them together – which come to her in snapshots – and her new friend, Charlie. The parrot has a vast vocabulary, and soon Chloe hears her say something odd: It was murder. Followed by homicide and cyanide. Chloe becomes convinced her uncle Will’s death was foul play. Why else wouldn’t he have told anyone – especially Chloe – that he was sick?
With the help of her family, Chloe sets out to uncover Uncle Will’s murderer. The suspects: His nosy neighbor. An ex-girlfriend. A rude landlord. A loan shark. But the investigation leads to more questions than answers. Did someone really kill Uncle Will? Could this journey help bring Chloe’s family together?
Award-winning author Kristin O’Donnell Tubb delivers a quirky and charming mystery about the complicated journey of grief and the healing power of family.
Fowl Play is out in fall 2024!
About Kristin O’Donnell Tubb
Kristin O’Donnell Tubb is the author of The Decomposition of Jack; Luna Howls at the Moon; Zeus, Dog of Chaos; the Story Collector series; A Dog Like Daisy; and other middle grade titles. She lives near Nashville, TN, with her bouncy-loud family. Just like her two dogs, she can be bribed with cheese. You can visit her online at kristintubb.com.